This fall, we were very excited to welcome Professor Anthony Dichiara as a new faculty member with our Bioresource Science and Engineering (BSE) program. Dichiara joins us after two years with the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., where he had been working as a postdoc with Professor Reginald Rogers. He brings an extensive background in materials science and engineering, and his research here will focus on the synthesis of carbon-based nanomaterials from biomass—with applications in multifunctional composites and environmental remediation, including the development of innovative ways to improve the sustainability of the biorefinery process.
“I’ve always been interested in nanomaterials,” says Dichiara, who grew up near Fontainebleau, France, about an hour outside of Paris. “From a very early age, you have those people who are interested in space and everything that’s huge. On the reverse end, I was always into everything that’s small. You look at planets, I look at atoms.”
Dichiara earned his bachelor’s and master’s in materials science and engineering, as well as a master’s in optics and nanotechnology, from the University of Technology in Troyes, France. He then earned his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from École Centrale Paris in 2012.
As part of his master’s double degree program, Dichiara spent about a year on a fellowship doing research in optical applications of nanomaterials in Hsinchu, the Silicon Valley of Taiwan. It was a defining experience personally and professionally, he says, as he met his future wife Emma there and sharpened his career outlook. “When I was doing my research in Taiwan, that’s when I realized I wanted to work with nanomaterials for my career,” he says. “That’s where I decided I wanted to go into academia and have more freedom with my research.”
Dichiara’s research initially focused on synthesizing nanomaterials, which are comprised of incredibly tiny nanoparticles and have broad uses in industries from healthcare to electronics and aerospace. His pioneering work on hybrid structures contributed to record performances in multifunctional polymer composites and water purification.
His overall goals haven’t changed, he says, but at SEFS he’s shifting to a biomass perspective and no longer using synthetic materials. He’ll be starting from nature, trying to create carbon-based nanomaterials that mimic the natural world—and that have powerful applications in the production of biofuels and other bioproducts.
Working with his new BSE colleagues, he’s already collaborating on a project to increase the efficiency of water treatment at biorefineries. That’s one of the main costs of producing biofuels, and Dichiara is looking to improve methods of cleaning toxic pollutants from the water to make the biorefinery process more cost-effective and sustainable. A related project involves working with biomass that comes from waste management, and trying to transform those materials into high-value products to treat water at a biorefinery. It’s using waste from one industry to solve the challenges of another. The result would be a synergistic, highly sustainable waste management system that brings us closer to the long-term goal of a biorefinery that create zero emissions and zero waste.
As he jumps into these projects, Dichiara has been getting settled in his office in Bloedel 288, and his lab refurbishment should be complete by the end of November. He’s hoping to start advertising for grad students this spring, as well, and he already started teaching this quarter with BSE 248: Paper Properties. “It’s pretty exciting to meet the students from UW,” he says. “They are really bright and dynamic.”
It’s wonderful to have Dichiara’s energy and expertise at SEFS, and we hope you’ll join us in welcoming him to our community!
Photo © Anthony Dichiara.